Queens of the Stone Age enter new "Era"

2007-06-02 11:39
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NEW YORK (Billboard) - The pace has been fast and furious in Queens of the Stone Age's world since its 2002 album "Songs for the Deaf" lifted the band out of relative obscurity and into the upper echelon of new hard rock acts.

That set has sold 986,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and spawned enduring rock radio hits like "No One Knows" and "Go With the Flow."

But its 2004 follow-up, "Lullabies to Paralyze," suffered from a difficult birth on the heels of QOTSA bassist Nick Oliveri's sudden dismissal from the group. Sales also suffered; despite a No. 2 modern-rock hit, "Little Sister," the album has shifted 346,000 units.

So frontman Josh Homme put the brakes on the whole "Lullabies" operation and set out to create new material.

"'Lullabies' and everything around that was tough in many ways," he admitted. "It was nice to just say, 'In a minute, in a minute.' We took advantage of that moment. You don't always get it."

Flanked by multi-instrumentalist Troy Van Leeuwen, drummer Joey Castillo and longtime cohorts Chris Goss and Alain Johannes behind the boards, Homme began penning new tracks (such as the punishing first single "Sick, Sick, Sick," which features the Strokes' Julian Casablancas) and tinkering with other ideas he'd never been able to complete.

The result is "Era Vulgaris," due June 12 via Interscope.

"There are songs on every record that I've had pieces of for sometimes 10 years," he said, pointing to new album tracks like the warped opener, "Turning of the Screw," and "Make It Wit Chu," which was released in a different form on volumes nine and 10 of Homme's long-running Desert Sessions project.

Homme said he now finally feels comfortable with the band's present lineup, enthusing, "I look at what Joey and Troy did, and they exponentially expanded our wingspan. It has taken me 15 years to find guys like that, that want to skip the B.S. and make something that is really gestalt."

Indeed, the band was so pleased with "Era Vulgaris" that it omitted the intended title song, with a guest spot from Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, from the final running order. The cut was instead leaked online, providing early buzz for QOTSA's return.

In an odd twist, QOTSA this summer is touring tertiary U.S. markets like Bakersfield, Calif., and Missoula, Mont., before it embarks on a major-market run in September.

"We want to play to people who hardly ever get shows and just burn the house down," Homme said. "I think we're too stoked to not go deeper than we have before. It feels like the right time to go, 'Hey, man, sorry I'm late, but here we are."'